UC Berkeley News


Peter Haas, dedicated donor and Cal booster, dies at 86
Levi Strauss executive gave campus not only money but time and enthusiasm

| 08 December 2005

Peter Haas
Peter E. Haas, Sr., a 1940 Berkeley graduate who never lost his connection to the campus throughout a long career as a business executive and philanthropist, died Saturday, Dec. 3, in San Francisco at the age of 86.

Born in 1918 in San Francisco, he attended Galileo High School there, then spent his undergraduate years at Berkeley, beginning as an engineering major but graduating in economics. After graduate study in business at Harvard, he spent some time as a riveter for a defense contractor during WWII before joining the family business. In 1958 he assumed management of Levi Strauss & Co. with his brother Walter; the latter became president, while Peter became executive vice president. Those titles were largely honorific, as the brothers shared management responsibilities jointly, even swapping titles in the 1970s. Peter remained chair of the company's executive committee from 1989 until his death.

The Haas name on the Berkeley campus is as familiar to this generation as the names Sather and Hearst were to those that came before. In addition to the business school named for Peter Haas' father, Walter A. Haas, Sr. (a 1910 Berkeley grad who became president and, later, chairman of Levi Strauss & Co.), the campus also boasts the Haas Clubhouse in Strawberry Canyon, the Haas Pavilion, the Haas Scholars Program in support of undergraduate research, and a pair of annual awards as prestigious as any the campus bestows: the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award and the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award. The latter, established on its namesake's 80th birthday by his wife, Mimi, honors alumni who have made significant contributions to improving society, particularly at the community level.

Among the campus landmarks bearing the Haas name are the Haas School of Business (top) and the Haas Pavilion. (Steve McConnell photos)
"Peter Haas was distinguished by his modesty and his profound concern for those less fortunate than he," said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in a public statement. "He preferred creating awards to recognize public-service and charitable achievement rather than receiving them."

Along with his siblings, Walter A. Haas Jr. and Rhoda Goldman Haas, Peter in 1989 contributed what was at that time the largest gift ever made to the Berkeley campus - $27 million to support construction of a new building complex for the school of business, on the site of the former Cowell Hospital. (The business school itself, founded in 1898, is the oldest such professional school at any public institution in the U.S.) In so doing they were keeping up a tradition of giving to Cal that dated back to 1897, when Levi Strauss himself contributed matching funds for 28 scholarships authorized by the state Legislature.

"Peter Haas encouraged the Haas school to be the best, and never to forget that the purpose of business education is to create opportunity for others," said Haas Dean Tom Campbell. "His legacy is enormous. Our school, which bears the Haas family name, is proud of that association because of the virtues that Peter Haas exemplified."

Haas gave more than money to Berkeley; he gave of his time and his enthusiasm, while helping, through his unstinting efforts as a fundraiser, to improve the campus's financial condition.

He served twice as a trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation, first from 1966 to 1975 and again from 1994 to 1997. In 1993, as the Campaign for the New Century, the campus's most recent multi-year capital campaign, entered its crucial "nucleus fund" phase, he took on the leadership of the Chancellor's Campaign Cabinet, playing a key role in raising nearly $1.5 billion by 2000 - at that time, the most money raised by any university without a medical school. More than 10 percent of that total ($156.1 million) was raised in 1994-95 alone, a full $25 million of it from Peter and Walter Haas,Jr. and their spouses. (Of that total, $15 million was earmarked for academic priorities to be identified by the chancellor, with the remainder going toward construction of what is now Haas Pavilion.)

'. . . an ardent champion of winning . . .'

Upon assuming his leadership role in the campaign cabinet, Haas joked that "despite some long afternoons in Memorial Stadium, I keep coming back [to Berkeley]." He was indeed a devoted booster of Cal Athletics. Sandy Barbour, Cal's athletic director, said, "Peter Haas was one of Cal's most devoted and knowledgeable supporters and an ardent champion of winning, but never at the expense of honor and dignity. His quiet resolve and determination to succeed have inspired generations of Cal's student-athletes and alumni. He will be missed at courtside, but his presence will always be apparent at Cal sports events - and in the world far beyond the university."

Peter Haas's devotion to the campus extended - consistently and fervently - to its athletic programs . . . as Oski attests. (Peg Skorpinski photo)
Haas, a member of the Order of the Golden Bear (a fellowship organization of Berkeley students, faculty, and alumni), was also the recipient of numerous campus honors, including the very highest, the Berkeley Medal, in 1996. The following year he was named by the California Alumni Association as its Alumnus of the Year - the fourth in his family to be so honored, joining his brother, Walter Jr. (1984), his uncle, Daniel Koshland (1977), and his cousin, Daniel Koshland Jr. (1991). And in 2001 he was named Business Leader of the Year by the Haas School of Business and presented with a special Lifetime Achievement Award.

Haas is survived by his wife, Mimi, and two stepsons, Ari Lurie and Daniel Lurie; by his three children from his marriage to Josephine Baum: Peter Haas Jr., Michael Haas, and Margaret Haas; four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

At a memorial service held Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, Berkeley was represented by the California Marching Band, which played the Cal Fight Song; by the California Men's Octet (singing "Hail to California" and "Blue Moon") and University Relations staffer Lauren Nagel-Werd (singing "It's Only a Paper Moon"); and by former Chancellor Robert Berdahl, who eulogized the late philanthropist and, at the close of his remarks, donned a Cal cap with the legend "Peter's Team" embroidered on it. Many other members of the Berkeley community were on hand as congregants.

In lieu of flowers, the family has designated several recipients of donations, including, at Berkeley, the Athletic Study Center (c/o UC Berkeley Foundation, University Relations, 2080 Addison St., Berkeley, CA 94720-4200, or online at givetocal.berkeley.edu).